Afrika Mkhize is the exciting new face of South African jazz. Steeped in South Africa’s musical heritage, he displays a fresh, international perspective that places South African jazz in a new perspective. – Alan Webster, Director of the Standard Bank Jazz Festival.

Afrika started playing piano at the age of 6, and by 11 he had enrolled at Funda Centre Music School in Soweto to study classical piano. By 15, Mkhize was accepted at the National School of the Arts, classical music studies, and achieved his Grade 8 theory a year later. He continued to pursue jazz studies through the school’s N-Course. When he was 19, Mkhize enrolled at Pretoria Technikon to further his interest in Jazz, Composition and Arranging. A year later, he worked as musical director and pianist for the late Miriam Makeba and also contributed arrangement, on her request, for the Roma Philharmonic Orchestra in Italy.

He has also performed with Dorothy Masuka, Khaya Mahlangu, Zim Ngqawane, Musa Manzini, Vusi Khumalo, Sibongile Khumalo, Judith Sephuma, Oliver Mtukudzi, MXO, Marcus Wyatt, Zama Jobe, Papa Noel from France, Jimmy Dludlu, Allou April and the late TK, Vusi Mahlasela.

“Jazz is truth,” says Mkhize. “It’s pure emotion; it’s like taking a knife and cutting out your heart and saying ‘here it is, look at it, this is me’. And where does jazz come from? Well you can’t talk about jazz without talking about blues and gospel music, and you can’t talk about those without talking about the slaves that were taken from West Africa to America. For me, that’s where jazz really began. It was a way of expressing the pain felt by a displaced people. But then, amongst the pain there were also moments of joy and those were also expressed in the music. Essentially jazz is an expression of what we are feeling in the moment. Sometimes we go on stage and we don’t know what we’re going to play, but we come together and we play music. That is truth – being able to take your experiences during the course of the day and express them that evening at a gig. That’s jazz – you can’t just play it, it has to be lived.”